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Women's Movements

Women's Movements

Phyllis Schlafly in Women's Movements

Phyllis Schlafly (1924- ) is a conservative activist best known for her opposition to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s. Born in St. Louis, she graduated from Washington University in 1944, earned a master's degree from Radcliffe in 1945, and a law degree from Washington University in 1978. In 1952 and 1970, she ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

Schlafly's 1972 article "What's Wrong with 'Equal Rights' for Women" launched her campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment. She argued that the ERA would force women into the military, jeopardize benefits under Social Security, and weaken existing legal protections under divorce and marriage laws. She further argued that America's Judeo-Christian heritage paid homage to women's God-given maternal role and, as a result, women were "the most privileged" of "all the classes of people who ever lived." American women enjoyed "the most rights and rewards, and the fewest duties."9

In September 1972, Schlafly formed STOP ERA, a nationwide grassroots organization dedicated to preventing ratification of the amendment. She also established the more broadly focused Eagle Forum as an alternative, she argued, to "women's lib." To connect these efforts, she published a monthly newsletter titled the Phyllis Schlafly Report.

Most analysts agree that these efforts were largely responsible for preventing ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Schlafly and her supporters lobbied effectively in state capitals. Among the general public, she was successful in convincing women, in particular, that the ERA was the front for a more radical assault on marriage and family. A poll released toward the end of the ratification battle revealed that only 47% of American women, as opposed to 55% of American men, supported ratification of the ERA.10

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